Mid-Shore Wine: Crow Farm is Building Memories and Serving Wine

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There is something special about spending time on a farm, particularly for someone raised in a busy metropolitan city. My childhood memories include how quiet and dark it was, away from all the traffic, noises and lights that were part of my everyday life. There were animals who typically didn’t make appearances on urban sidewalks–cows, pigs, horses, and chickens; and even those that did, such as dogs and cats, roamed unleashed and unrestricted. There was a sense of leisure yet busyness, calm yet purposefulness.

Harvest time (photo credit Lotte Bowie Loblolly Productions)

I no longer live in a city, recently moving to a small town, and when given the opportunity to visit and write about Crow Winery, a vineyard and 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, MD, I jumped at the chance.

Seeing the silos as we drove down the long road leading to the farm brought back all the beautiful memories. But there was also much more that this grown-up could appreciate as I stepped out of the car– the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vines that reminded me of Autumn, harvests and well, yes, a fine crisp wine.

Owner Judy Crow, fresh from attending the birth of a calf, met us. After introductions to a new addition to the 100+ herd of Angus cattle, she took us to her home, an 1847 farmhouse which also accommodates a 3-bedroom B&B that they call a ‘farmstay’ experience. “We opened up the B&B,” she said, “so people could come and spend the night with us, learn about farming sustainability, have a farm fresh breakfast served family style, and if they want to be a part of delivering calves or going out to move cattle on the pastures, they can do that. The farm is an opportunity for the public to integrate themselves into the farm business.”

But Crow is so much more than a farm; it’s also an award-winning winery. And for a good reason. Take the 12 and a half acres of beautiful vines, imported years ago from the New York Finger Lakes region, now pregnant with grapes and ready for picking and managed by Judy’s son, Brandon Hoy, along with Vineyard and Winery assistant C.T. Wright. Or the state-of-the-art 5,000-case production winery where a bottling and labeling machine stood idle, but ready for the 200 cases a day it produces, where polished and gleaming fermentation tanks, sorting tables and wine-stained oak barrels are carefully monitored by winemaker Michael Zollo and consultant John Levenberg. Or the Tasting Room, formerly a milking barn, where you’ll probably run into Joe Rieley, the sales manager who will expertly guide your selection and your palate to sample a flight of wines, maybe even accompanied by the local cheeses.

The story of how it started goes back years ago when it wasn’t always about vines, wines, or tasting rooms. Then it was about Roy Crow who had a three-generation family dairy farm which grew wheat, corn, and soybeans and had 10 Angus cattle. Ten years ago, after meeting and marrying Judy, they began to consider other options. Why not wine, they asked? They knew that Maryland’s climate did not produce the types of wines that customers were used to (such as the sweeter Cabs and Merlots), so why not create something new and local for these consumers to enjoy using only grapes they would grow or those grown within a 50-mile radius of the farm?

“Early on we decided to stick with dry premium style wines,” Judy explains. “The B&B was driving business to the farm, and our first customers were from metropolitan areas, such as New York, Philly, and New Jersey–wine savvy people, who wanted nice quality local wines. So, we stayed with that model, even though it’s harder in Maryland, as Maryland wines tend to be sweeter and our wines are drier, our price points are higher, and we either grow our grapes or have local growing partners. It’s a different style of wine that means that people have to come here and experience them or go to finer establishments that stock our wines.”

She was right. Soon, reviewers began to talk about their wines and Crow began to win awards Two years after building their winery, the Crow Vidal Blanc received a gold medal at the International Wine Competition. That same year, Crow took the Best in Class and Double Gold for their Barbera Rosé in both the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup and Governor’s Cup. The accolades have never stopped. A corner of the Tasting Room is dedicated to showing off just some of the medals Crow wines have won. This past summer, Crow was voted this year’s “Best of the Bay 2018 for Maryland Wineries,” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers.

Even with all of this notoriety, Judy worked on a new business model. Crow Wineries was in a great location–an hour from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and minutes from historic Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The problem was they were near other wineries, in other counties, and each was competing for the visitors, tourists, and residents. There had to be something they could do, which with Judy’s encouragement, they did. Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De Vineyard and Winery decided to form a collaborating relationship.

“Our idea was to bring people to the area and for our businesses to integrate and work together. So, we created a marketing strategy that encompassed our various counties. This made it good for all of us,” Judy said. “One winery may not bring people out; with two you have a better chance. When you add other wineries and interesting places for people to visit, it becomes a destination for people to come and experience these small waterfront towns.” Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City saw the value in the concept and bought a 15-passenger limo that would take their guest to the various wineries.

This past year, the Rivers to Canal Wine Trail, as they are now known, added centralized events that would benefit all. Crow Fest 2018, in early September, brought hundreds of visitors and featured live music, vendors, food, tours, grape stomping, games, and hayrides. The Rivers to Canal winemakers led tastings and discussions. It was a win-win for all. Events, such as this, and others planned throughout the remainder of the year, guarantee that there is something happening weekends that would interest everyone. The group is growing even larger with Casa Carmen Wines, Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Bayhead’s Brewing Company joining them.

This joint effort appears to have paid off. At a recent Wineries Association meeting, where other wineries were discussing disappointing profits, Crow’s sale numbers were up. Crow Wine Cellars recently opened at Queenstown Outlets selling wines, beef, and local products, all with the ultimate goal of luring people to come to the area. Their wine club has grown to over 250 couples–only 15% of which are local Kent county residence. This means that the area’s tourism industry is growing as well. 

To Judy, it all comes down to involving the community, whether that community is other wineries or people who want to experience and create memories about being on a farm. She remembers years ago when they first started and about 12 people expressed interest in learning about harvesting wines and working on a farm. This year that number is around 40-50 people. “It’s important to us that the public comes out and harvests grapes and works in the winery or at the farm so they can see first-hand what it means to have a vineyard and winery in their community. These are all things that people value. This is why we are here.”

For more information about Crow Winery, go to http://crowvineyardandwinery.com/.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Alfredo Ferretti’s Real Deal Osteria

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Perhaps one of the most indelible characters in that very specialized genre of food films must be Primo, played so brilliantly by actor Tony Shalhoub in Big Night a few years ago. Primo, the older of two brothers who start an Italian restaurant in New York City in the 1950s, is the film’s hero, dedicated with heart and soul to l’autentica cucina Italiana in a world then of canned spaghetti and meatballs. It is a profile of passion and a love of food that reaches an almost spiritual level as it is combined with feeding a family and a community.

It is essential to bring that reference up since it was almost instantaneous that Primo came to mind when this author met Alfredo Ferretti, owner and chef of Osteria Alfredo for the first time. Without a word, he rushed me into his kitchen to demonstrate how a simple pasta dish could be transformed into a nurturing, soul-delivering summer meal from the gods.

From the kitchen, we moved to the dinner table to talk about food, wine, and the essential ingredient, the right amount of time needed to really and truly enjoy Alfredo’s version of l’autentica cucina in Easton.

Alfredo’s Favorite Summer Pasta

The first video of our interview is approximately four minutes in length and Alfredo’s easy pasta dish takes about three minutes. For more information about Osteria Alfredo please go here

Mid-Shore Food: Hair of the Dog is Starting to Sniff

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The Spy was on reconnaissance the other evening as we were checking out rumors of a new Vietnamese restaurant near Lowe’s. The good news is that our report can confirm that a Pho-themed venue is indeed happening. The bad news for the Spy that particular evening was that it wasn’t open yet.

But as we were swinging out of the shopping center, a quick look informed us that Hair of the Dog had made good of their promise to bust through a wall and open up the next door retail space to create a tasting room with an appropriate bar menu.

The Dog did well. It’s a remarkably open, pleasant space with very little doubt about its purpose. The tasting menu for both wine and craft beer seems endless, but just in case there is a credit card-run wine station where eight wines can be pumped out from a high tech encasement at various prices and sizes.

The food was good enough, which is a good thing. While the menu is creative to a point, none of the food offerings are designed to take center stage. It’s all about what one drinks.

 

 

Quick Takes: Yes, Virginia, there is a Indian Restaurant on the Mid-Shore

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The Spy has investigated many restaurant rumors that float through the Mid-Shore throughout the year, but when we received news that there was a possibility of an Indian restaurant in Cambridge, there was an instinctive reaction to label it “fake news.” Nonetheless, duty called, and we took a field trip last weekend to confirm or deny this existence of a venue for curry and are pleased to report that those reports have turned out to be entirely accurate.

Here are some of our findings:

1). The Indian restaurant goes by the name of Bombay Tadka and is located at 1721 Race Street in Cambridge.

2). The food is excellent and remarkably fresh.

3) Some staples of Indian cuisine are missing from the menu. Regrettably, Naan bread is not to be found along the favorite Tandoori chicken. It was also a disappointment that Tadka has yet to get their wine and beer license, which we hope will be resolved soon.

4) The service was attentive even during a busy night.

5). Like any new restaurant, there were a few hiccups and odd twists to our meal.  It is also safe to say that while the curry dishes were outstanding, they seemed remarkably different in taste and with presentation from your traditional curry house.

6) We conclude that Bombay Tadka is the “real deal” and a welcome addition to the Mid-Shore.

For more information about Bombay Tadka please go here

 

Mid-Shore Authors: The Unexpected Environmentalist J.I. Rodale with Andrew Case

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It’s pretty clear that J.I. Rodale did not set off in life to be what we now call an “environmentalist.” The godfather of the “natural food” lifestyle, founder of Prevention magazine, and advocate of organic farming, Rodale saw himself first and foremost as a publisher.

That’s one of the many takeaways from Washington College professor Andrew Case’s new book, “The Organic Profit:
Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism,” (University of Washington Press) which chronicles Rodale’s unique role in building a marketplace for organic products and supplements.

Nonetheless, Rodale began a movement that eventually led to the popularity of organic products, the awareness of the dangers of pesticides, and the importance for taking care of one’s own body and what it consumes. All which encompass the fundamentals of our current environmental movement in this country.

All of this proved to be irresistible to Case whose scholarship has focused on the history of environmentalism and consumer culture. He began to document Rodale’s rise after World War II, the rapid success of the Rodale Press, and a family business that has left a permanent legacy in the annals of the American environmental history.

The Spy sat down with the author at Cromwell Hall on Washington College’s campus to talk about the overarching themes found in Organic Profit and the fascinating profile of one of America’s great entrepreneurs.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Please go here for more information on “The Organic Profit:
Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism.”

 

New Chestertown Eatery – Germaine’s New Orleans Style Carry-Out

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Germaine’s Carry-Out Grand Opening Thursday, April 19, at 827 High St, Chestertown, MD, 21620

It’s open! Germaine’s Carry-Out celebrates its grand opening with a New Orleans-inspired menu today, and you owe it to your taste buds to pay a visit.

Germaine’s is located at 827 High St., the site of the fondly-remembered Herb’s Soup and Sandwich take-out. But while the location is the same, Germaine’s puts her focus on the subtly flavorful Creole cuisine, as developed by the original French and Spanish settlers of New Orleans. On any given day, the menu will feature a choice of soups — with chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage gumbo always in the spotlight — sandwiches, including muffulettas and po’boys, and a choice of crepes. Germaine’s is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

John Hanley and Germaine Lanaux. John helped to muscle the huge freezer out of the truck and into the restaurant.       Photo by Jane Jewell

Germaine Lanaux grew up in New Orleans, sampling the offerings of the city’s great restaurants from an early age — and learning the elements of French cookery from her father Gaston. After her family moved to Baltimore, she began her career as a chef at Martick’s Restaurant Francaise, then spent some 15 years traveling in Europe, working as a chef in Spain and Paris. Upon her return to the U.S., she opened her own supper club and catering business in Baltimore, Cafe Germaine. Having moved to Chestertown a number of years ago, she now brings this rich body of experience to her new venture.

The Spy staff visited Germaine’s late in March, when she hosted a “soft” opening to give the town a small sample of her fare. The free muffulettas — with soppressata, mortadella, salami, olives and pickled vegetables on a sesame seed roll — were delicious. She plans to add larger carry-out meals and rotating dinner specials to the menu at some time soon. And be sure to ask about office trays.

The Mufaletto –a speciality of the house!  Photo by Jane Jewell

Germianes’ menu is very reasonably priced.  Shrimp, chicken, andouille, and rice gumbo is $10.  The traditional white bean, potato, and kale soup runs $4 for a cup and $6 for a bowl. In sandwich selections, the muffuletta is $8 while the Cuban–ham, house roasted pork, swiss cheese, salami, pickles and mustard on cuban bread with creole seasonings–is $9.  The Big Easy at $10 is a shrimp po’ boy with remoulade. Germaine’s also offers a variety of crepes at $8 and a Nutella crepe at $6.

Germaine believes in buying local as much as possible.  Consequently, many ingredients come from Kent County farms or other Eastern Shore sources.  They partner with Cedar Run Farm  and Langenfelder Pork for pasture-raised and naturally-fed beef and pork. Much of their produce comes from Oksana’s farm on McGinnis Rd just outside Chestertown.  Oksana’s vegetables are grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers from non-GMO seeds. Chester River Seafood, Crow Farm, Langenfelder Pork near Kennedyville, St. Brigid’s Farm also just outside Kennedyville, and Unity Nursery are also regular suppliers.

For more information and full menu, visit Germaine’s website, or call 443-282-0048.

The whole crew – Cathy, Corey, and Germaine – ready for action!      Photo by Jane Jewell

Germaine’s Carry-Out with a New Orleans Twist at 527 High St. Photo by Jane Jewel###

Mid-Shore Food: Chef Erin O’Shea at Mason’s Redux

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Just like any other hiring process for a significant leadership position, the search for the right executive chef with the proper credentials is paramount to the success or failure of that dining establishment. All serious searches start with the premise that a person’s background and education that will made an indelible impression on the community and its long-term reputation.

That is why the Spy has continuously found a way to interview some of the best Mid-Shore chefs who have made the Eastern Shore their culinary home. From the past brilliance of Jordan Lloyd in Easton, Patrick Fleming’s remarkable presence in Cambridge, or Kevin McKinney’s legacy in Chestertown, we have intentionally sought to understand better these chefs unique pedigree and history.

That was why the Spy was excited to catch up with Erin O’Shea, the new executive chef at Mason’s Redux on Harrison Street in Easton. To our surprise, Erin is no stranger to the Eastern Shore having attended school in Talbot County before heading south for a brief tenure at Texas A&M University. But while college life didn’t quite fit with her ambitions, the cooking scene in Houston did, and very shortly she headed back east to pursue her passion for food and cooking.

Last week, the Spy sat down to talk to Erin and those early years of training, her mentors, and the privilege to bring Easton’s beloved Masons back alive with her own unique touch.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Mason’s Redux please go here

Mid-Shore Food Notes: Yelp Says Marlena’s in Middletown is one of the Top New Restaurants in US

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The Spy was taken by surprise this morning when it was noted that Buzzfeed used Yelp’s Top USA list to highlight that Marlena’s Mediterranean Deli in Middletown, DE. was to become a destination restaurant.  Yelp determined Marlena’s standing by using an algorithm that takes into account the number of reviews and star ratings for every new restaurant.

We are eager to hear from Spy readers if they agree with this assessment. In the meantime, you can find Marlena’s on 10 West Main Street in downtown Middletown.

Twas the Day Before Dickens: Friday and Saturday Specials at Chester River Wine & Cheese

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Twas the Day Before Dickens…

…and all through the town, the creatures are stirring, and merry is the sound. Join us Saturday from 11-2 for a Ploughman’s Lunch in the garden entrance behind Chester River Wine & Cheese along Cannon St. We’re excited to partner with Chestertown’s well-loved award-winning restaurant, Luisa’s.

Warm up with us before strolling the shops and fun along High St. We’re serving a traditional farmer’s lunch of English Cheddar, Wensleydale, pickles, bread, and meat.  Luisa’s has prepared a ham and navy bean soup to warm your belly. As you eat you’ll be treated to the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages as they leave from our neighbors at Cross St. Realtors. The full lunch is priced at $12 (including tax and beverage).

During the Ploughman’s Lunch, we’re also hosting our Saturday morning wine tasting.  In addition to our wines, we’re also serving a house made Lemonade and Lockbriar Farm’s Apple Cider. Wines we’re sampling include:

  • Clara C Prosecco Brut – Fresh, delicate, balanced on the palate and light in alcohol with a long fruity finish. Perfect as an aperitif, ideal with fish, it goes extremely well with hors-d’oeuvres and light first courses.
  • Les Trois Couronne Cotes du Rhone – Another nice wine from a terrific vintage.  A round wine with aromas of black fruits, spices, and licorice. This is a full-bodied wine with rounded elegant tannins and a long finish with notes of fruits and spices.
  • JH Andresen White Port – Highly aromatic and complex, blending notes of dried apricot, pound cake, hazelnut, but with a freshness and vivacity. That freshness continues on the palate, with a beautiful acidity and creaminess, resulting in a stylish and distinctive wine.

Join us for First Friday this evening. We’re offering a half-case special on our wines and 15% off select bottles. In Welcome Home we’re offering 10% off plush bathrobes by Pine Cone Hill.